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Memorable Manitobans: Thomas Hassall (c1811-1846)

Interpreter.

Born near Churchill to Chipewyan parents, he was sent to Red River for education at the mission school and renamed after a Welsh friend of David Jones. In 1831 he joined the Hudson's Bay Company and in 1833 was employed as an interpreter by the arctic expedition of George Back, who reported that Hassall had some trouble speaking his native tongue.

In 1840 he joined the Methodist mission at Norway House, soon becoming an interpreter and schoolmaster. James Evans reported favourably upon him in 1844, noting that he spoke “English well, French tolerably well, Cree fluently, and Chippewayan (not Ojibaway, but an entirely different language).” Evans licensed him as a “Local Preacher,” the first native so dealt with by the Methodists in the Northwest. Not long after, Evans accidentally shot and killed him while attempting to shoot some ducks from their canoe.

More information:

Thomas Hassall, Dictionary of Canadian Biography VII, 390.

Sources:

Dictionary of Manitoba Biography by John M. “Jack” Bumsted, Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1999.

Page revised: 14 March 2008

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